On January 1, 2015, the New Jersey judiciary will expand its Complex Business Litigation Program statewide. The program has been operating in Bergen and Essex counties since 1996. It is designed to handle complex commercial and construction cases with $200,000 or more in damages. New Jersey will join 27 other states with some form of specialized business courts.

Cases are assigned to a specific judge from the beginning, and each judge assigned to the program will be expected to issue a minimum of two written opinions every year so as to develop a body of complex business case law. Cases in the program will not be subject to the court’s mandatory mediation and arbitration programs, although judges can encourage the parties to use alternate dispute resolution. Both jury trials and bench trials will be available.

The program will not include matters handled by general equity judges, or matters involving consumers, labor organizations, personal injury or condemnation, or cases in which the government is a party.

The decision to expand the program statewide was made in response to the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Working Group on Business Litigation’s recommendation. Last year, 199 complex commercial litigation cases and 71 complex construction litigation cases would have been deemed qualified for the program.

Parties in cases where the damages are estimated to be less than $200,000 may make a motion to have their matters transferred into the program if there are compelling issues to be resolved involving discovery, a large numbers of parties or witnesses, or a significant interpretation of a business or commercial statute.